Look, I know the Boruto/Naruto franchise has never had a penchant for subtlety, but err… This week definitely had the show laying it all out rather thick. Boruto’s latest episode, the 24th episode of the series, marks the conclusion of its second cour. Its also an episode that feels like something that’s half fanfiction, half actual official cannon continuation. There’s that to elaborate on, of course, but I think its also worth mentioning two of the show’s recurring positives at this particular juncture as well. On the plus side, Boruto as a series continues to nail the feeling of a more peaceful version of the Shinobi world that Kishimoto-sensei created with his original manga. Not only that, it also does great justice to the characters its features from the franchise, whether they’re franchise mainstays or new characters entirely.
What the show doesn’t do, however, and what continues to worry me about this show and story as a whole, is that it just can’t match up the plot and have the story truly come together. Don’t get me wrong, Boruto is a decent show, its the only show among a myriad of shows that I actually aspire to cover on a weekly basis, and I enjoy it quite a bit. I enjoy it, but I also know that what I’m enjoying is akin to fast food; familiar, quick, cheap and not altogether memorable.
You don’t have to look very far to see what I mean by the whole fast food analogy either. Just take a gander at the episode’s title: Boruto and Sarada. Just last week, on the heels of the conclusion of Sarada’s whole family story, the Naruto Gaiden story arc, the thing that had me most excited was how Boruto and Sarada were going to shift and change. The whole premise of the episode, the thing that could’ve and would’ve made it memorable, was a potential focus on two of its primary characters.
And to be fair, the show does go over the new Boruto Sarada dynamic, but it hardly commits to the idea. Instead, this week’s episode is split between two parallel ideas; There’s Boruto and Sarada, the so called next generation, and then there’s the Five Kage Summit. Each of these elements have their pros and their cons, but neither storyline is a home run. If nothing else, both stories actually really show how Boruto the anime series, seems to be the product of real fans of the franchise, for better or worse.
Lets take the Kage Summit as an example, because I think that whole part of the episode reads the most like a fanfiction. The story starts off decently well, with some nice build up towards the big Kage festival. People are excited, especially the kids from Boruto’s class, and everyone in the village is looking forward to seeing what are undoubtedly the celebrities and leaders of their world and civilization.
There’s some nice little nods to how the current cast of characters relate to the current Kage, with both Boruto and Shikadai mentioning that to them, its basically like a family reunion. That part works the best I think. Its subtle, it doesn’t have this big stupid scene with Shikadai getting a weird visit from “Uncle Gaara”. but there is a mention of the fact that Gaara isn’t exactly the best at giving gifts. Its a nice little tidbit of information, one that you wouldn’t really get under normal circumstances.
The reserved sense of control ends there though, and soon we’re “treated” to not one, but two major scenes where Iwabe and Metal are basically both arguing about and geeking out over the Kage like fanboys. That’s the part that just screams fanfiction, the part where the show decides that the best way to show us how the “common folk” view the Kage, is by having two boys argue about which Kage is “cooler”.
It’d be one thing if there were only one scene, or if the scene in question was brief, but no. The show goes on to have all the Kage make dramatic entrances, as if they’re wrestlers or entertainers, and then has these two kids freak out and compare them, while there’s a commentary happening over live TV. At that point, all I could see was Iwabe and Metal acting as pure stand-ins for the actual writers of the show. It just didn’t feel elegant, refined, or frankly all that interesting.
Contrast that with say, the Chunin exam in the original Naruto series, and boy is there a huge difference. The way the characters are introduced, from an almost in the moment style, is what made it all so powerful. Here we’re so far removed from the action, and instead have fictional characters geeking out about other fictional characters. The end result? An event that just feels hollow and kind of unimportant.
But hang on a sec, you may be thinking. Sure the introduction was kinda weird, and a bit of a miss, but once the show actually shifted to a meeting between all those Kage, it pretty much nailed them. To which I’d say… Yeah, you’re right, it did nail them. The fact that the show nailed the personalities and traits of each of these characters, whether it was Darui, Gaara or even Naruto himself, kinda proves my point. That’s exactly what a good fanfiction does, it really nails the characters and respects their DNA, but rarely do fanfiction stories have the same storytelling style or creativity of their parent work.
To kinda really hammer my point home, Naruto and the Kage themselves start discussing the huge issue that required the summit in the first place… Some unknown threat that’s even more powerful than Kaguya, the final boss that Naruto and Sasuke sealed at the end of the darn Shinobi war.
Think about that for a second, this show is trying to build up to a new threat, one that will serve as the ongoing backbone conflict for its characters, and the best it offers up is “Hurr Durr, there’s something more Powahful than Kaguya coming!”
Ouch. I mean seriously, ouch. That whole scene reads as something an 8 year old would write, and that too from an afternoon of bad day dreaming. An unknown being that’s more powerful than the last super powerful being the heroes barely defeated. Sure there was talk about the White Zetsu stuff, and even some logic leaps to try and make the whole thing more threatening, but lets not kid ourselves, that whole idea has the creativity of basic arithmetic (i.e there is none).
Now…. If that was all there was to the episode as a whole, then I think we’d just go ahead and call it a bad one, but the fact of the matter is that there were some genuine moments of brilliance tucked into the episode as well. After the show established a rather weak idea for some looming threat, it moved on to more interesting topics. The questions of when this threat was coming, and not only how but WHO would deal with it, lead to one of the most fascinating moments in the series.
Some of the Kage, like Kurotsuchi, Darui and Chojuro mention their worries about their future generation, and how times of peace may have resulted in less talented warriors and fighters. THAT, is such an interesting and original idea, and one that contrasts to the world that we saw in the Naruto and Naruto Shippuden series. They bring up a really good point, because unlike Naruto, Sasuke or Gaara, children like Boruto and Sarada have not had it all too bad.
Life isn’t a constant string of battles, pain and suffering for these kids, and the result may mean that they simply won’t be able to deal with a reality where things are ravaged by some new war. I love that idea, and I love that the leaders of each Shinobi village are agonizing about this particular problem. I don’t doubt that these concerns are valid, because simply put, a lot of the so called next generation hasn’t actually had a chance to show off their skills.
Yet, equally enthralling and even more convincing, is Naruto and Gaara’s perspective on the whole idea. The idea that the young generation is always looked at negatively by the old, and that there’s always a choice to believe in the future, is one that was so beautifully articulated at this moment. Its a belief and a view that I think is definitely in character for both Naruto and Gaara. And for that alone, its worth noting that only Someone with a serious sense of respect and a deep understanding of these characters, could write or execute this kind of scene.
Which goes back to an idea that I’ve been mentioning for a good while now; Boruto the series, can do fanservice really really well, if nothing else. Again, last week I mentioned that I was disappointed by the omission of the Uchiha family photo that kind of serves as the real book end to the Naruto Gaiden story. Well… My concerns were all for naught, because the show throws in a scene acknowledging the event itself, and shows us the family photo.
That’s something that a real fan would only bother with. If this were just any adaptation, then last week’s conclusion would’ve been about all that the director/writer would’ve been concerned with. Boruto as a show, goes a step farther, but it only seems to do so with regards to fan pleasing side moments. I love that the family photo is shown and mentioned, but I do wonder why this big threat that’s coming, didn’t receive the same attention to detail and care in its ideation and creation.
Speaking of which, lets talk about the other side of this week’s episode, the whole Boruto and Sarada dynamic. I have to say, I like how Sarada has changed to become someone who’s hopeful and has a dream now. She’s inspired to become someone and strive for something, and its because of both her father and Naruto that she’s changed. What’s sad is that this change doesn’t create any sort of interesting situation or tension between her and Boruto.
Boruto, for all intents and purposes, should be clashing with Sarada more than ever before. He hates the idea of Hokage, and the fact that there’s someone who is outright supporting it and is inspired by his dad, should for all intents and purposes, be detestable to him. But Boruto? He doesn’t really care, instead he’d rather be a little child and go and grafitti his dad’s statue one more time.
The whole idea just reeks of lazy writing. Boruto is a child that still can’t get over his daddy issues, so he goes off to pull a prank that will get everyone’s attention, and Sarada catches him and tries to stop him. Its stupid, its lazy, we’ve seen it numerous times in this series already, and it doesn’t yield anything. Boruto doesn’t change or really even talk to Sarada properly, they just have a quick little battle that shows off their skills, and then the whole thing ends in a comedy punchline where Boruto basically embarrasses his dad in front of all his contemporaries, and Sarada basically gets fooled and angry.
What’s sad and disheartening is that the idea of Boruto and Sarada having a good dynamic is interesting. Mitsuki points to it, and the show literally likens them to underdeveloped flowers, not yet bloomed to their full potential. The show is so blatant with its symbolism that it inter-cuts Sarada and Boruto’s whole spat with a literal close up shot of a growing flower bud. I mean, wow… just… Wow.
And in the end, its unfortunate, because what I really was hoping to see was some development towards the dynamic that Sarada and Boruto have in the Boruto movie. Its there that Boruto is not only a good friend of Sarada’s, but he wants to support her from the shadows in the same way that Sasuke supports Naruto. How Sarada earns Boruto’s support and comradery, that’s something that I think this series could’ve really done a good job showing.
Instead, we get this lazy weird situation of a prank, and some looming threat that is “more” powerful than Kaguya. While I respect the amount of care the show takes with its characterization and treatment of its characters, it continues to disappoint and hover around mediocrity because of how unimaginative and cookie cutter its plot is turning out to be. And with next week looking to be a continuation of the filler-like Academy Slice of life stories that plagued a good chunk of the earlier part of this series, well… Lets just say that things are looking a bit grim for the foreseeable future.
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